In my many years of working in education, one thing that I have learned again and again is that we have to be flexible in what we do. At any given time, I walk in with a list of items on my to-do list, as well as a list of current projects that I’m working on. But sometimes something happens in the day that leads me to have to adjust on the fly.
When I was in the classroom, I remember times when my lesson plan went out the window due to something that occurred in the world that morning or the night before. Other times I might have been forced to adapt my plans because I woke up sick and needed to adjust to sub plans. Or maybe there was a situation where a teammate wasn’t there and the classroom was uncovered, so we had to split the students among our teams.
As an administrator, that happens as well. Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. I remember a time when I was supposed to be leading professional development with a group of teachers, but as I was about to walk out of the office, an upset parent walked in who needed to speak to me. At that moment, I felt it was best to take the time to meet with the parent rather than head to the PD. While it was an inconvenience for the teachers, everyone was understanding.
Last week we had a couple of days where our art teacher had to be out, and we weren’t able to find a substitute teacher to cover the classroom. I went through the normal process, checking in with various people about when / if they’d be able to help cover some or all of the day. On one of the days, it quickly became apparent that there was nobody to “cover the class.” Rather than spinning my wheels trying to piece together a possible schedule, I just decided to step in and cover the class. While I didn’t have anything on my calendar that couldn’t be adjusted, it definitely meant that I needed to be flexible for the day.
Our art teacher left emergency sub plans, and they certainly would have worked, but I also wanted to see if I could come up with something a little more creative. I went over to our library and found the book The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt. If you’ve never seen the book, each page is a postcard from Duncan’s crayons who have been lost about talking about the fun they’ve had together, where they were lost, and that they wanted to come back. After reading the story, each student was encouraged to pick a crayon color from the crayon box and create something with that color. Students who finished their artwork were then encouraged to write a note from the crayon to Duncan.
While this was certainly not the day I had planned, it was the way the day needed to go. And as principal, there are things that may not be a typical part of your day, but you just step in because it’s what the school needs. And as an added bonus, I can tell you that I had a ton of fun being with our students helping with the art class throughout the day!
It would have been easy to have a mindset of frustration about the inconvenience that this created in my day, but the truth is, someone had to be the art teacher for the day, and there was nobody else to do it. Sometimes part of being a leader is stepping up and taking on things that nobody else can do. Sometimes you just have to do it!